Scottie ends up in a cross-border romance.
“What are you doing tomorrow,” he asked me outside Belfast’s biggest gay club, the Kremlin.
“Well, I’m going back home in the afternoon…”
“Do you want to get coffee?”
I was genuinely surprised at this. This guy knew that I wasn’t a local, nor did I even live in the city. Still, he was asking me out regardless. He was, in some ways, the typical cub. Like me, he’s just a tad shorter than the average guy (we’re both 5’7”). His light beard suited him, and I couldn’t have imagined him with a clean-shaven face. He was also very, very handsome.
“Alright, yeah.” I resigned myself to the idea of a date with him, even if it probably wouldn’t go anywhere; even if I was going to get on a two-and-a-half hour bus journey home afterwards; even if it wasn’t likely to go any further than that one date. Was it a waste of time, in that case? I presumed that it would’ve been, but he seemed nice and I couldn’t come up with a reason not to go along with it. In truth, I didn’t want to say no.
He collected me from my friend’s house the following afternoon, and took me to a milkshake bar in Belfast’s Botanic Avenue. This wasn’t just cute, it was cute and fun. The place was small, which made it a bit difficult to get to know him through the typical ‘first-date’ questions without others eavesdropping (I’m not exactly afraid of people knowing I’m on a date with a guy, but I don’t think anyone likes to make their first date a public performance). He seemed to share this sense of being on display, so we decided to take our milkshakes to the nearby Botanic Gardens, where we snuck in a cheeky kiss in the glasshouse, and again as we walked through the campus of Queen’s University (jokes about queens will be ignored).
My first rule of dating is generally to keep first dates to a quick coffee or pint and no more. This situation was slightly different, though; I knew that if I ever wanted to see him again, it wouldn’t be soon. We live in cities that are almost a hundred miles apart; seeing him again wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t easy either. So, we made a day of our date, and decided to take a drive to the coast. If you ever have the chance to visit Northern Ireland – or indeed, anywhere around the Emerald Isle – our richest resource is the stunning coastline. We ended up at a nearby beach, where we walked along the water and watched the ferries sail across to Scotland. It was overcast, but bright and warm. The conversation never really stopped, and neither did the banter. It was hard not to smile in his company, as he seemed to be completely at ease with himself.
Eventually (and after a few more kisses) he drove us back to Belfast and dropped me off at the bus station. I was still smiling by the time I got back to Dublin. What possibly made it better was what was to follow…!
‘Scottie’ Illustrations by Stephen Charlick